He was speaking during his visit to the US to promote agri-food exports to the US, investment in the food industry in Ireland and strong trading relationships.
The Minister emphasised the importance of the drinks sector to exports and to economic activity in Ireland.
“The Irish beverage sector is now a billion €uro industry” he stated, “with a global reputation for quality and sales in over 100 countries worldwide. Irish Whiskey exports alone in 2011 were valued at €222 million representing a 25 per cent increase on the previous year. It is among the fastest growing spirit categories in the world. The largest export market is the US where 1.4 million cases of Irish Whiskey were sold in 2010 – up from 728,000 cases in 2006”.
Driving this success story is the history behind the products, the quality of the ingredients, strong branding, investment by multinationals and an innovative approach by companies large and small, he said.
Minister Coveney added “I am delighted that the industry is projecting investments totalling €500 million to meet growing consumer demand. The economic impact of the drinks sector on the Irish economy is significant. Exports support jobs at home directly in the industry and its associated sectors. They also support the livelihood of farm families who supply quality raw materials. The contribution of the beverage sector including Irish Whiskey, Irish Cream liqueur, craft beers and non-alcoholic drinks is an integral component of our agri-food success story”.
The Minister stressed the importance of the quality factor of uniquely Irish beverages. “A continuing focus on and expansion of premium brands, whiskeys, especiality beers and other quality products from Ireland, should ensure that the Irish drinks industry continues to enjoy a successful, sustainable future. Ireland offers a warm welcome and solid business opportunities and a commitment to the development of the food and beverages industry in line with the industry-led Food Harvest 2020 strategy”.
Alcohol exports are essentially Irish whiskey and Irish cream liqueur. Irish whiskey is the fastest growing spirits category in the US, growing plus 19.5 per cent in 2010 versus total spirits sales value of plus 3.2 per cent, according to Nielsen. This is a little under 1.5 per cent of total US liquor volume.